When the Cubs have talked about better team chemistry this season, and Kevin Millar in particular, they may not have had visions of prospects performing ``American Idol'' acts for the veterans.
But that looks like exactly the kind of thing they meant.
Millar and his pal Ryan Dempster are the ringleaders of a ``Cubs Idol'' competition that's apparently so entertaining that manager Lou Piniella had fun talking about it before and after Tuesday's game - following the semifinal round of the Idol competition Tuesday morning, presided over by judges Dempster, Millar, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
``It was fun,'' Piniella said. ``I tell you what, they spent some time preparing for today's show.
``Some of these guys worked hard,'' he added of the prospects, starting to laugh. ``If they had worked as hard baseball-wise, they'd be in the big leagues. ... Obviously, I'm joking. But it was fun watching them.''
Piniella said Dempster came to him two weeks ago to ask if it was all right to stage the ``competition.''
``I said to have some fun with it,'' the manager said.
And that's the point.
This is a team that had no fun last year. They year before, they were loose and always laughing.
And whether you believe that's a chicken-and-egg proposition that has more to do with winning first, it's no accident that good-guy, outgoing grinders like Marlon Byrd and Millar were brought in this spring. Or even good-guy pitcher Carlos Silva in that trade for you-know-who, or good-guy outfielder Xavier Nady.
Millar is the poster boy among Cubs newcomers for so-called clubhouse chemistry.
``Look, we like chemistry,'' Piniella said. ``We like for this team to be loosy-goosy and have fun. We look to our veteran players to provide that. So he fits in all those categories.''
And he might even make the team, especially if he shows he can handle playing the corner outfield spots over the next week or two.
Meanwhile, he has work to do with his fellow judges in the clubhouse this weekend. Cubs Idol finals are Saturday.
``A couple of these kids have a little talent,'' Piniella said. ``I'm serious.''